Luzerne County, Pa., May Delay Voting Machines Decision

Luzerne County Council Chairman Tim McGinley said he believes the idea to hold off and monitor the experiences of other counties is worth consideration and plans to discuss it with his council colleagues.

by Jennifer Learn-Andes, The Times-Ledger / October 14, 2019
Voters cast their vote in Lexington, S.C., on Jan. 21, 2012. The House passed an election security measure Thursday that would require voting systems to use backup paper ballots in federal contests. (C. Aluka Berry/The State/TNS) TNS

(TNS) — A decision on Luzerne County’s new voting system may be delayed until late November.

Citizen Mark Rabo asked Luzerne County Council last week to consider waiting until after the Nov. general election to see how other counties fared with their new voting systems.

Council Chairman Tim McGinley said he believes the idea to hold off and monitor the experiences of other counties is worth consideration and plans to discuss it with his council colleagues.

Three vendors — Dominion Voting Systems, Election Systems and Software (ES&S) and Hart InterCivic — submitted proposals to provide a paper-trail system here. Counties must pick a system by the end of the year and start using it by the April 2020 primary under a state mandate requiring paper ballots or receipts that can be checked by voters and kept in case tallies are questioned.

According to an Oct. 1 state report, 31 counties are scheduled to start using one of these three systems Nov. 5, with each vendor grouping including at least one similarly-sized, third-class county like Luzerne. Seven counties already have used the ES&S and Dominion systems in this year’s May primary, it said.

Phone comparison

County Election Board member Peter Ouellette used cell phones to illustrate why a new voting system with updated technology is needed, independent of the state’s requirement for a paper trail.

The county started using the current electronic voting machines in the November 2006 general, which means they will be 13 years old when they are used Nov. 5.

Ouellette expressed doubt that many are still using the cell phones they had 13 years ago. He said his wife really liked her old phone but can’t use it anymore because transmission technology is different.

He referred to calibration issues in recent elections, when there were complaints the touch-sensitive screens were not properly lined up with the underlying ballots, ensuring the intended choices lit up.

“The sensitivity of the screens is declining. This is a problem with aging equipment,” Ouellette said.

©2019 The Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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